Dateline Mana: It all started with a fellow colleague sharing the number of Mr. Pitambar Molpa, Pradhan of Mana the last village of Uttarakhand, in Chamoli district about a possible story on how our last village is coping with Covid-19.
I was pleasantly surprised when the call got through, without a glitch. A few rings later, an educated and soft-spoken Pitambar Molpa was on the line. He was forth-coming and eager to share the story of Mana, situated at a height of 10,500 feet post the pandemic.
Today, he tells me, the village is home to 250-300 families who depend solely on tourism and selling local produce. But 2020 spelt doom for the hard-working Marchchas and Jads who call Mana home. With zero tourism and the sale of their famous kidney beans and potato taking a severe battering, the villagers here are fighting an uphill battle.
Pitambar adds, “2020 has been a bad year. We, like others, are rummaging through whatever savings we had. Consuming a little less and sharing a little more, of our local produce, has been the mantra thus far.”
Since March this year, the State government has distributed free ration kits two to three times in the region, other than that, there is little anyone has done for the families. Being an optimist Pitambar says, “What can we possibly ask the government for? Hopefully by next year we will learn to live parallel with Covid and things will change for the better.”
Thus far, the village has been Covid free. Villagers have pasted notices in Hindi and English along with barricades to restrict outsiders. A wise move, many would say, considering limited or barely any medical facilities available in and around the village.
Following tradition, in two months the entire population of the region will migrate to Gopeshwar, before winter sets in. Come April 2021, Molpa and his people will make their way home to Mana with a prayer on their lips, praying for a better season minus the pandemic.